Hollywood Steps Out
Hollywood Steps Out is a 1941 short Looney Tunes cartoon by Warner Brothers, directed by Tex Avery. The cartoon features caricatures of Hollywood celebrities from the 1930s and early 1940s.
A large bird's-eye view of a city is shown with beams of light moving to a conga beat. The action takes place in the famed Ciro's nightclub, where the Hollywood stars are having dinner (at $50 a plate and "easy terms"). The first stars seen are Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and Cary Grant. Grant talks to himself: “What a place! What a place! It’s as pretty as a picture. But if I ever told my favorite wife the awful truth I'd land right on the front page. Yessireee Bobby.” (All these jokes are references to some of his films, except The Front Page which does not star Grant, but was remade as His Girl Friday in 1941, a film that does star him).
Then Greta Garbo comes along selling cigars, cigarettes, and butts. Grant buys some and asks her for a light. Garbo lifts her enormous foot on the table and strikes a match to it, then lights Grant’s cigarette.
In the next scene Edward G. Robinson asks Ann Sheridan: “How’s the Oomph girl tonight?” Sheridan responds by uttering the word “Oomph” several times. Her final “Oomph” surprises Robinson. (Sheridan was a sex symbol known as the “Oomph” girl in those years.)
The camera then tracks past some tables: the first one has Henery Binder and Leon Schlesinger sitting there as an inside joke, while the soundtrack quotes Merrily We Roll Along. (Schlesinger was producer for the Looney Tunes cartoons and Binder was his assistant.) The camera shows some other tables which are reserved for people: Bette Davis, a large sofa for Kate Smith (a well known singer at the time, noted for her obesity), and the last table isn’t reserved for movie actors at all, but for comic (and movie and radio) characters: Blondie, Dagwood, and Baby Dumpling, with a fire hydrant for Daisy the dog.
Meanwhile, in the cloakroom Johnny Weissmuller has arrived. He leaves his tuxedo behind to reveal his Tarzan outfit. Sally Rand (famous for her striptease acts and fan dance), leaves her feathers behind and leaves presumably naked.
In the next scene James Cagney informs Humphrey Bogart and George Raft that they got to prepare to do something risky. The trio, all known for their “tough guy” roles, get ready, run off, and then turn out to be pitching pennies. Harpo Marx, usually the prankster in The Marx Brothers films, sticks some matches under Garbo's foot, then lights it. Garbo reacts very slowly and coolly to the pain in reference to her serene and cool acting style by slowly saying, "Ouuchhh". Then Clark Gable spots a girl, whom he follows with his head turning around 180 degrees (Gable was known for his playboy ways).
After this, Bing Crosby announces the first act that evening. During his speech he is interrupted by a jockey on a race horse (a reference to Crosby’s fondness for horse race betting and his lack of luck in these games. Jokes about Crosby's horse racing betting passion would be referenced in other Looney Tunes cartoons as well, such as The Old Grey Hare). Crosby then introduces the first musical number by conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stokowski, who has a hair net containing his long hair, prepares himself dramatically and seriously to conducting what looks to be some classical orchestral arrangement. However, it’s a conga beat to which he moves rhythmically.
The beat “does something” to Dorothy Lamour, who is seen sitting at a table with James Stewart. She begs him to go dancing with her. Stewart starts stuttering and hesitating, but in the end agrees to follow her to the dance floor. (Stewart was known for his “shy guy” type roles). When she moves her body to the beat he gets scared and runs away, leaving a sign reading Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
The next shot shows Gable again, moving to the beat and at the same time following the girl he saw earlier.
Tyrone Power dances with Sonja Henie (known for her ice skate movies), who’s still wearing her ice skates. Frankenstein's monster is dancing very stiffly and woodenly. The Three Stooges poke and smash each other in beat to the rhythm in a reference to their famous “poke in the eye” slapstick films. Oliver Hardy dances with someone as well and is shown from the back. When he turns his face to the camera he is revealed to be dancing with two girls at the same time. (A reference to Hardy's womanizing in the Laurel & Hardy series and his obesity). Cesar Romero, known for his roles as a Latino lover, dances with Rita Hayworth. In a long shot Romero is shown with extremely large feet. Because of his foot size, Romero's feet rip fabric from Hayworth's dress by friction.
The camera then cuts to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland sitting at a table. The waiter brings an expensive bill, which shocks Rooney. He asks his “father”, Lewis Stone, for a favor. In the next scene both are seen washing the dishes to the conga beat. (This is a reference to the Andy Hardy film series in which Rooney played the small town boy who always got into trouble with money and girls. Lewis Stone played the part of Andy’s father: Judge Hardy; Judy played his girl, Friday).
Gable is shown still following the girl. Then Crosby introduces the final act, again interrupted by the same jockey on his race horse. Sally Rand performs the bubble dance, a famous scene from her film Bolero, in complete nudity, which is never seen although parts of her body get revealed.
Kay Kyser (a well-known band leader at the time, nicknamed “The Professor”) is excited by the act and shouts out: “Students!” A group of people look, whistle in unison and exclaim: “Baby!” They are William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn. Sitting down are Wallace Beery and Aubrey Smith. Peter Lorre, known for his portrayal of sinister and weird characters, says dreamingly: “I haven't seen such a beautiful bubble since I was a child.” Henry Fonda enjoys the act too, but is pulled away by his mother. (This is a reference to the popular radio show The Aldrich Family which always opened with the cry: "Hen-ryyyyyyyy! Henry Aldrich!" by the mother of the teenage title character, Henry Aldrich) J. Edgar Hoover says “Gee!” several times as a pun to his function as G-man. Boris Karloff, Arthur Treacher, Buster Keaton and Mischa Auer watch the spectacle without any emotion (typical for their film roles). Ned Sparks asks them if they are having a good time. They all react dryly: “Yes!” Jerry Colonna reacts in excitement to the act and utters his catchphrases “Guess who?”, and the camera reveals an invisible character next to him: “Jehudi!” (“Who’s Jehudi” was a catch phrase Colonna was famous for.)
Finally Harop Marx shoots the bubble with a slingshot. The bubble explodes and Sally Rand is shown wearing a barrel underneath. The conga stops and the cartoon cuts to Gable who has finally caught the girl he was chasing. "She" turns out to be Groucho Marx in drag, which concludes the cartoon.